Q&A: Good Bye 2018, Hello Star Wars Vehicles

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, December 30, 2018

This week in Q&A - Vehicle collecting. And... it's the end of 2018! So have some speculation on that. Send in your questions for 2019.

Be sure you send in your questions for next week. Our mail bag is empty. Read on!

1. Have you taken a look at the Elite Series Star Wars vehicles from Hot Wheels?

While I'm not a huge diecast vehicle fan, I must say that I am quite impressed with these. It looks like there are two waves out (or due out) with Wave 1 being an X-Wing, Tie Fighter, and the Millennium Falcon (which can made to be OT or new trilogy based off of changing the radar) and Wave 2 being New Order Tie, Poes X-Wing, and Episode VII X-Wing.

Are you aware of any others? Have you taken a look at these?

Hot Wheels Elite - not just Star Wars - are on the way out. There are a couple left on deck... and that's it. Things can change, but the era, she is ending.

The abundance of similarly sized product combined with cheaper stuff also going on clearance made it tough, and Elite has been struggling for years. Sure, we got cars from Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Knight Rider, but the core tended to be really fancy high-end cars and the license didn't always help. The lower going rate on the secondary market is the exact opposite of what they want of a line like this, as you can't maintain a high-end collectible if items drop below MSRP. We're seeing some of that with The Black Series - "new movie" characters come out flat, while "old movie" characters tend to do well and sell out and demand reissues. (There are many factors at work there.) When it comes to ships, there's little freshness and countless alternatives - especially for the original trilogy. You could just as easily snap up Action Fleet or Hasbro's Titanium Ultra line.

To my knowledge the remaining Resistance X-Wing and First Order TIE Fighter is the end of the line - assuming they still come out, of course. There are stories about this line and I'm not sure what all got out, but clearly the interest in a smaller, $70 vehicle was limited. If you're in near El Segundo (where I left my wallet) you can visit the Mattel store, open to the public. Last time I was there they did indeed have a large selection of unsold Elite ships, and they still might.

One of the ongoing epidemics in collecting is - strangely - too much competition. Which line do you buy? Disney Store's $10ish vehicles? Little Titaniums? Hot Wheels Starships? Which one will be the most complete, the best, or the most inclusive? Having similar competing products is utterly toxic to collecting, because they can't all survive and each one may have products the other one does not. (I like to cite my skipping Hot Wheels until just recently because I was all-in on Galoob MicroMachines Die-Cast + Titanium Series.)

Thanks to Disney's ability to slice up a license, we can see very similar items from multiple companies at different, very specific price points and channel restrictions. This is why Mattel can do a $70 vehicle that's a little meatier than the ones Disney sold in its stores for a fraction of the price. (And, presumably, why we had MicroMachines and that Miniatures X-Wing Aces game.) As far as I know, there's still no reasonable reason for both Hasbro and Mattel to have similarly sized and priced Starships, but it had happened.



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Historically the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's - prior to the Disney era - were dead. I'd just take off. This year I stuck it out since we've been busy since The Force Awakens, but recent releases haven't really stoked imaginations. The dribbles of Resistance and Galaxy of Adventures 3 3/4-inch figures haven't yet inspired a lot of questions, nor have the latest waves fo The Black Series trickling out. Toy aisles are strangely empty, but new-for-2019 toys are slowly trickling out. I'm seeing new LEGO kits, but mostly for the new movie. Hot Wheels has a new batch of starships hitting, so TIE Bombers are appearing in black-flavored packaging in the same 5-digit SKU that gave us the Solo spacecraft. There are reasons to go out and hunt. The Mimban Stormtrooper hit Walmart online, but I don't believe anyone has confirmed a US at-retail sighting. (And since many have asked, as of this moment, there are no plans known to me of this showing up on any other online retailers. And I think you know which one I mean.)

Things are slow in a way we don't see much. There are still items to catch up on - the AT-DT, the Force Link 2.0 TIE Fighter, the last wave of Solo figures - but most of these things were already in some sort of circulation. With a new wave of Vintage going up for pre-order soon (real soon!) with some of the first newly sculpted classic trilogy figures in some time, at least we've got something on the horizon alongside Captain Marvel and the wait for the final Avengers movie's toys. Other than that? More Transformers, and of course speculation will begin on Spin Master getting DC Comics from Mattel, where it had been since Hasbro let it go in around 2002 with product hitting - if memory serves - around 2003. It's a big transition in an industry where stability between partners tends to be common, like seeing Star Trek at Playmates for close to 17 years. But all good things must come to an end.

Officially we haven't heard anything about Hasbro and the licenses up for renewal - Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel. I was told LEGO did a while back. Mattel rumblings have been quiet, but they're not doing much. Sphero confirmed it will not be renewing. There are other licenses on which little has been said to the general public. It seems like it would be a bad time for Disney to change course, given that the post-Avengers and post-Episode IX world looks pretty shaky. We haven't seen Star Wars on small screens inspire popular toys since the Disney takeover, and the best times in collecting tend to be when Hasbro is left to their own devices to make weird characters from the past and whatever vehicles float their boat. Staying the course for a few more years would be preferred from where I sit, but I also am one who thinks that they're not going to let Episode IX end without setting up another trilogy for the Skywalker family to enjoy in 5-10 years.

The future of any toy collecting hobby generally requires some sort of new blood, and generally that comes from new fans and new products. Star Wars grabbed new kinds of fans with novels, comics, and toys in the early 1990s as well as better video games shortly thereafter. This would be followed by LEGO toys and prequel movies later on - and generally we've stuck to some variation on that formula for quite some time. Scarcity is really no longer a thing for Star Wars as a brand, and so far it seems they haven't found a new territory to stake out, or some long-demanded product type (like LEGO) in which to grow.

We're also in a very different retail landscape. The "Top 5" accounts of the 1990s are gone, with Kay-Bee done, Toys R Us gone, and Kmart... let's be honest, Kmart is not a player. Walmart and Target are the big dogs, with Amazon right up there and a lot of new players trying to figure out the right move for the future. Nobody really cracked the toy business in a substantial way this year, with a little bit more product in non-toy retailers ultimately not amounting to much yet. Empty aisles shows a conservative approach, and undoubtedly one that will lead to more mergers throughout the new year. I'd bank on someone buying someone else before Toy Fair.

I'm in the licensed toy business, and even I'm sitting here wondering what's next. As a fan, there tends to be a regular flow of classic properties aimed at people in their 30s and 40s. (And 20s.) Without new blood, there are no new toys - the new movies are ensuring we stay in some semblance of the spotlight, but even that can't last forever. Of course, if other properties come and go - remember how The Matrix in 1999 was supposedly going to top Star Wars forever? - anything can happen. By this time next year, it's possible the Avatar game will begin and we'll have to deal with that. Or maybe Star Wars will have a real follow-through after the movie launch unlike the forced start, stop, and relaunch we've been experiencing since 2015. As always, we'll be watching with great interest. And Happy New Year!

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.